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Context of 'January 15, 2003: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Rescinds His Authorization for Most Interrogation Methods He Had Previously Approved'

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Rumsfeld’s handwritten note at the bottom of the memo he signs: “However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”Rumsfeld’s handwritten note at the bottom of the memo he signs: “However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?” [Source: HBO]Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approves General Counsel William J. Haynes’ recommendations for interrogations methods (see November 27, 2002) and signs the action memo. (Lindlaw 6/23/2004) He adds in handwriting: “However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?” In signing the memo, Rumsfeld adds for use at Guantanamo Bay 16 more aggressive interrogation procedures to the 17 methods that have long been approved as part of standard US military practice. (Jehl 8/25/2004) The additional methods, like interrogation sessions of up to 20 hours at a time and the enforced shaving of heads and beards, are otherwise prohibited under US military doctrine. (MSNBC 6/23/2004)

In a memo to General Counsel William J. Haynes, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, without an explanation, rescinds his authorization for the majority of the interrogation methods he approved in December (see December 2, 2002). The remaining methods can only be used with his express approval and on an individual basis. (Jehl 8/25/2004) He also forms a panel of top Defense Department officials, known as the General Counsel Interrogation Working Group, “to assess the legal, policy, and operational issues relating to the interrogations of detainees held by the US Armed Forces in the war on terrorism.” This should ultimately result in the development of proper interrogation techniques. (MSNBC 6/23/2004) The working group will consist of people working in the offices of Haynes, Douglas Feith, the military departments, and the Joint Staff. Haynes will be the panel’s chairman. (US Department of Defense 8/23/2004 pdf file)

The US military command in Afghanistan, Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) 180, issues a memo on interrogation techniques, which includes nudity on the list of effective interrogation methods, despite this tactic being presumably barred by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on January 15 (see January 15, 2003) for use at Guantanamo and in Afghanistan. According to Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, who will write a detailed report on detention operations (see August 25, 2004), the document “highlighted that deprivation of clothing had not historically been included in battlefield interrogations.” However he will add, “It went on to recommend clothing removal as an effective technique that could potentially raise objections as being degrading or inhumane, but for which no specific written legal prohibition existed.” (US Department of Defense 8/23/2004 pdf file) The document also speaks of exploiting the Arab fear of dogs. (US Department of Defense 8/23/2004 pdf file) Rumsfeld also banned the use of dogs for interrogation purposes in his January 15 order (see January 15, 2003).

In a report, the Pentagon working group (see January 15, 2003) recommends the adoption of 35 interrogation techniques. Twenty-six of them are recommended for use in interrogations of all unlawful combatants held outside the US. The remaining nine are considered “exceptional” and recommended for use only on unlawful combatants suspected of holding “critical intelligence.” The advice is clearly not for the public eye. “Should information regarding the use of more aggressive interrogation techniques than have been used traditionally by US forces become public,” the panel warns in its report, “it is likely to be exaggerated or distorted in the US and international media accounts, and may produce an adverse effect on support for the war on terrorism.” (MSNBC 6/23/2004)

Geoffrey Miller.Geoffrey Miller. [Source: US Army]Major General Geoffrey Miller, who oversees the prison at Guantanamo (see November 4, 2002), flies to Iraq for a 10-day consulting trip (see August 18, 2003). He is part of a team “experienced in strategic interrogation… to review current Iraqi theater ability to rapidly exploit internees for actionable intelligence” and to review the arrangements at the US military prisons in Iraq. (Higham, White, and Davenport 5/9/2004; Hersh 5/17/2004; Shadid and Williams 8/24/2004; Savage 2007, pp. 190) The team consists of 17 interrogation experts from Guantanamo Bay, and includes officials from the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). (Smith and White 6/12/2004)
Attempt to Increase Flow of 'Actionable Intelligence' - The Pentagon’s decision to dispatch the team on this mission was influenced by the military’s growing concern that the failure of coalition forces to quell resistance against the occupation was linked to a dearth in “actionable intelligence” (see August 2003). (Hersh 5/24/2004) Miller has therefore come to help Brigadier General Barabara Fast improve the results of her interrogation operations. More to the point, he is supposed to introduce her to the techniques being used at Guantanamo. (Hersh 6/21/2004; Worden 7/4/2004) Officials are hoping detainees will provide intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein, who is still on the loose. (Smith 5/16/2004)
'Gitmoizing' Abu Ghraib - “[Miller] came up there and told me he was going to ‘Gitmoize’ the detention operation,” Brigadier General Janis L. Karpinski, later recalls. (Higham, White, and Davenport 5/9/2004) Miller will later deny he used the word “Gitmoize.” (Smith and White 5/12/2004) During Miller’s visit, a Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JIDC) is established in order to centralize the intelligence operations at the prison. Captain Carolyn A. Wood is made officer in charge (OIC) of the Interrogation Coordination Element (ICE), within the JIDC. (US Department of Defense 8/23/2004 pdf file) Before returning to Washington, Miller leaves a list of acceptable interrogation techniques—based on what has been used in Guatanamo—posted on a wall in Abu Ghraib, which says that long term isolation, sleep disruption, “environmental manipulation,” and “stress positions” can be used to facilitate interrogations, but only with the approval of Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez on a case-by-case basis. (Smith 5/21/2004) The use of dogs is also included, even though the technique was banned at Guantanamo eight months before by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (see January 15, 2003). (Diehl 7/19/2004; US Department of Defense 8/23/2004 pdf file) Karpinski later recalls, “He said they are like dogs and if you allow them to believe at any point that they are more than a dog then you’ve lost control of them.” (BBC 6/15/2004) Miller’s visit to Iraq heralds some significant changes, which include, first, the introduction of more coercive interrogation tactics; second, the taking control of parts of the Abu Ghraib facility by military intelligence; and third, the use of MPs in the intelligence collection process. During his visit, Miller discusses interrogation techniques with military intelligence chief Colonel Thomas M. Pappas. (Golden and Schmitt 5/13/2004)
'Snowballing' Effect of Chaos, Brutality - “The operation was snowballing,” Samuel Provance, a US military intelligence officer, will later recall, describing the situation at Abu Ghraib after Miller’s visit. “There were more and more interrogations. The chain of command was putting a lot of resources into the facility.” And Karpinski will later say that she was being shut out of the process at about this time. “They continued to move me farther and farther away from it.” (White and Higham 5/20/2004) Major General Anthony Taguba (see March 9, 2004) will later determine that Miller’s visit helped bring about the complete breakdown of discipline at the prison: “Interrogators actively requested,” at Miller’s behest, “that MP guards set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogations of witnesses.” In essence, Miller tells guards to “soften up” prisoners so they will not be able to resist their inquisitors. Miller will later deny any responsibility for the Abu Ghraib torture program (see May 4, 2004). (Savage 2007, pp. 190)

In an e-mail, an “On Scene Commander” of the FBI in Baghdad refers to an executive order by President Bush allowing aggressive interrogation techniques to be used at any rate in Iraq by Task Force 6-26, which is the new name for JTF-121. These techniques include sleep deprivation, stress positions, loud music, yelling, stripping, dogs, and hooding. The executive order is still in use even though the use of hooding, stress positions, dogs, and stripping at Guantanamo and in Afghanistan were prohibited on January 15, 2003 (see January 15, 2003). Since the FBI agent has been ordered to report instances of abuse (see May 19, 2004), he notes a dilemma: would the techniques authorized by the executive order constitute abuse or not? He writes: “This instruction begs the question of what constitutes ‘abuse.’ We assume this does not include lawful interrogation techniques authorized by executive order.” A week before, apparently as a result of the unfolding of the Abu Ghraib scandal, some techniques described in the executive order could only be used with special approval from top levels in the hierarchy. Thus, the FBI agent says in his e-mail: “[W]e will still not report the use of these techniques as ‘abuse’ since we will not be in a position to know whether, or not, the authorization for these tactics was received from the aforementioned high-level officials. We will consider as abuse any physical beatings, sexual humiliation or touching, and other conduct clearly constituting abuse. Yet, there may be a problem if OGC [FBI Office of General Counsel] does not clearly define ‘abuse’ and if OGC does not draw a clear line between conduct that is clearly abusive and conduct that, while seemingly harsh, is permissible under applicable Executive Orders and other laws. In other words, we know what’s permissible for FBI agents but are less sure what is permissible for military interrogators.” (FBI 5/14/2004)

James Schlesinger.James Schlesinger. [Source: HBO]The four-member Independent Panel to Review Department of Defense Detention Operations completes its final report on its investigations into the prisoner abuses that are known to have taken place in US-run detention centers throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. The investigative panel, which includes James R. Schlesinger, Harold Brown, Tillie K. Fowler, and Gen. Charles A. Horner, finds that a failure of leadership, leading all the way to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, contributed to the abuse of prisoners. Like the Fay report (see August 25, 2004), to be released the following day, and the February 2004 Taguba report (see March 9, 2004), the Schlesinger report concludes that a lack of oversight and supervision allowed incidents, such as that which occurred at Abu Ghraib, to occur. Unlike preceding investigations, the Schlesinger Panel takes issue with the notion that abuses resulted from the actions of a few bad apples and were not widespread, charging that there is “both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels.” The panel however does not name names. Notwithstanding their criticisms of the secretary, all four members say that Rumsfeld’s mistakes were comparably less significant than those made by uniformed officers. The panel, appointed by the secretary himself, recommends against removing Rumsfeld from office. (Jehl 8/25/2004) In sum, the panel finds:
bullet Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his aides failed to anticipate significant militant resistance to the US invasion and did not respond quickly enough to it when its strength became apparent. (Jehl 8/25/2004)
bullet The Department of Defense created confusion when it issued, retracted, and then re-issued its policy on interrogation methods. (Jehl 8/25/2004)
bullet The failure to adequately staff Abu Ghraib contributed to the poor conditions and abuses that took place at the prison. The ratio of military police to prisoners at the facility was 75 to one. (Jehl 8/25/2004)
bullet Responsibility for the abuses that took place at Abu Ghraib go beyond the handful of MPs present in the photographs. “We found a string of failures that go well beyond an isolated cellblock in Iraq,” panelist Tillie K. Fowler explains during a Pentagon press conference. “We found fundamental failures throughout all levels of command, from the soldiers on the ground to the Central Command and to the Pentagon. These failures of leadership helped to set the conditions which allowed for the abusive practice to take place.” (US Department of Defense 8/24/2004; Jehl 8/25/2004)
bullet Rumsfeld’s decision (see December 2, 2002) on December 2, 2002 to authorize 16 pre-approved additional interrogation procedures for use at the Guantanamo facility; his subsequent decision (see January 15, 2003) to rescind that authority, and the final April 16, 2003 decision (see April 16, 2003) providing a final list of approved techniques was “an element contributing to uncertainties in the field as to which techniques were authorized.” The methods on the list eventually “migrated to Afghanistan and Iraq where they were neither limited nor safeguarded.” (Jehl 8/25/2004)
bullet The panel seemingly concludes that the interrogation methods approved for use in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo are lawful, fully agreeing that the Third Geneva Convention does not apply to detainees considered enemy combatants. The panel does not question whether the military was justified in classifying the detainees, or “terrorists,” as such. “The Panel accepts the proposition that these terrorists are not combatants entitled to the protections of Geneva Convention III. Furthermore, the Panel accepts the conclusion the Geneva Convention IV and the provisions of domestic criminal law are not sufficiently robust and adequate to provide for the appropriate detention of captured terrorists.” (US Congress 9/9/2004, pp. 83 pdf file)
bullet The panel says that Gen. Ricardo Sanchez’s decision to classify some prisoners in Iraq as enemy combatants was “understandable,” even though Combined Joint Task Force 7 “understood there was no authorization to suspend application of the Geneva Conventions… .” (US Congress 9/9/2004, pp. 83 pdf file)
bullet Abuses at Abu Ghraib involved both MPs and military intelligence personnel. “We now know these abuses occurred at the hands of both military police and military intelligence personnel,” the report says. “The pictured abuses, unacceptable even in wartime, were not part of authorized interrogations nor were they even directed at intelligence targets. They represent deviant behavior and a failure of military leadership and discipline. However, we do know that some of the egregious abuses at Abu Ghraib which were not photographed did occur during interrogation sessions and that abuses during interrogation sessions occurred elsewhere.… We concur with the Jones/Fay investigation’s (see August 25, 2004) conclusion that military intelligence personnel share responsibility for the abuses at Abu Ghraib with the military police soldiers cited in the Taguba investigation.” (Jehl 8/25/2004)
bullet In Guantanamo, roughly one-third of all abuses were interrogation related. (New York Times 8/25/2004)
bullet Contradicting the conclusions of the Red Cross report (see May 7, 2004), the Schlesinger report demonstrates that abuses were widespread. “Abuses of varying severity occurred at differing locations under differing circumstances and context,” the report’s authors write. “They were widespread and, though inflicted on only a small percentage of those detained… .” (Jehl 8/25/2004)
bullet The abusive practices were not sanctioned by the military’s interrogation policy. “No approved procedures called for or allowed the kinds of abuse that in fact occurred. There is no evidence of a policy of abuse promulgated by senior officials or military authorities.” (Jehl 8/25/2004)
bullet The panelists believe the abuses occurring during the night shift in Cell Block 1 of Abu Ghraib “would have been avoided with proper training, leadership and oversight.” (Jehl 8/25/2004) Critics will say the report is a “whitewash,” noting that the panel cannot be considered independent given that it was appointed by Rumsfeld himself. Months before the panel completed its work, panelist Tillie Fowler said Rumsfeld should not be blamed for the abuses. “The secretary is an honest, decent, honorable man, who’d never condone this type of activity,” she said referring to the abuse at Abu Ghraib. “This was not a tone set by the secretary.” (Myers and Schmitt 6/6/2004)

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